Elementary, my Dear Middleman

The Middleman wheeled the cart carrying the Tyrannosaurus Rex head into the infirmary.

"Hello, Arthur! Thought you might like to see your friend before he goes up on the Trophy Room wall. He doesn't look quite so ferocious now, does he?"

"No, he doesn't. Of course the fact that I'm not seeing my severed leg hanging out of his mouth helps."

Ida looked up from a lab table, where she was working on the exposed circuitry of what she insisted on calling a 'Bionic' leg "Whine, whine, whine... I keep telling you that if you'd just let me take off the other leg, then a matched set of these would let you run down the fasted horse in the world without even working up a sweat. But no, you want to hang on to that inefficient lump of meat and bone just because you were born with it. Humans!"

"No, thank you, Ida. One amputation is quite enough for me. They told me in medical school that losing a limb is traumatic in more ways than one. I believe it, now!"

"Well, OK, Artie Boy, but turning down an equipment upgrade is always a mistake. Hope you figure some of this out before you finally take over for the Boss, here."

The Middleman looked up from where he was lighting an enormous pipe "Now, now, Ida. The poor chap has already had an alien shoot him through the shoulder with a laser beam, and now he's had his leg bitten off by a dinosaur. I don't wonder that he doesn't want to spend any more time here in the infirmary. Besides, I need him back at work. Without him to run the GPS, I'll never find my way around London."

Arthur looked at the dinosaur's head with a slight shudder that was quickly overcome by curiosity "Did you get a chance to do those tests I asked about?"

"Yes, Arthur. According to the DNA Analyzer, your friend here is closely related to a chicken."

Arthur grabbed a notebook from the bedside table and began furiously making notes. Ida fixed him with a glare that easily equaled the look the Tyrannosaur had given him just before biting him. "I'll let you write that down, because you can't walk yet to do anything with it. But if you try to deliver those notes to the British Museum, I will take your other leg off – without anesthesia!"

"I know, I know. But do you realize how many questions we could answer for Science?"

"Sure I do. You could start by explaining about the Time Travel technology that would almost certainly be used to destroy what is charitably called civilization on this benighted planet. Or were you going to tell everyone you just happened to find some dinosaurs walking around Hyde Park that no one had noticed before?"

"I don't suppose we could say we found a few dinosaurs living in some obscure jungle or something?"

"Honey, it wouldn't matter if you told everyone you found them in the most inaccessible tributary of the Amazon river. People would either call you crazy, or else get themselves killed looking for the place."

A week later Arthur walked into the living room of the London headquarters. His newly attached leg still gave him an occasional limp. As a doctor, he found it somehow comforting that not even Ida could perform a perfect splice on a torn nerve. The assorted wonders of the Infirmary were still nothing short of miraculous to his 19th century mind, but he didn't feel quite so much like an ignorant savage knowing that even Ida couldn't do everything perfectly. Ida, of course, had suggested that he was only faking the limp to make her look bad.

As Arthur entered the room, the Middleman held up, with a dramatic flourish, what appeared to be an exceptionally large magnifying glass with an ornately carved handle. "Behold the Beyond the Realm of Science Scanner Mark 23. Ida finally got it scaled down to where all the circuitry fits in the handle. It doesn't quite do everything the standard model does, but how often do we really need to detect tachyon emissions, anyway? At least we can be seen using this model in public. Ida says that in another hundred years hand held electric devices will be common, but until then we have to blend in with the background."

"Well, personally, I'd be happy if I didn't have to keep printing out your emails on telegram paper every time there's someone else in the room." Arthur said.

"The trials and tribulations of being an assistant." The Middleman looked through the scanner's heads-up display at Arthur's leg "Is the nerve damage is likely to be permanent?"

"Yes, the Bionic receptors in the new leg are working, so it's simply that the nerves aren't always sending the right signal... Good Lord! Surely the Mark 23 doesn't have enough resolution to make out the nerve endings?"

The Middleman's thin face broke into a smile "No, just simple deduction – Ida's silence on the subject speaks volumes. By your customary good cheer, I take it that you're not in pain?"

"No, it feels more like having your leg fall asleep. After a few steps, that little controller in the leg figures out whether I'm trying to walk or run and then it syncs to the real leg. Mostly it works fine, it just looks clumsy." Arthur's voice grew wistful "I just wish I'd had something half as good to use with all the limbs I amputated when I was an Army Surgeon."

"I know, Arthur. It's always a temptation to help people. Just remember that the little power cell in your electric leg there could, with a few modifications, be used to make a bomb that would vaporize the entire city of London."

Arthur shuddered "I hate to think what 'Professor M' could do with a weapon like that. Ida didn't bother telling me why she installed a Self Destruct mechanism in my leg. I thought she just wanted to be to able to blow me up whenever she felt like it."

"Well , I won't say that the idea probably doesn't appeal to her, but the Self Destruct is standard for any equipment that powerful."

"Well , I don't want to be responsible for any Super Weapons being unleashed on the world. Just tell Ida to make sure I'm really captured before she pushes the button. I'd hate to get blown up just because I overslept."

"Don't worry Arthur, I won't let her blow you up unless you're at least ten minutes late."

"Ah, well, that's alright then."

"Don't count on me being that generous, five minutes late and I turn you into a fireworks display. " Ida said as she walked in. "Boss, we've got another long term project."

"Wonderful. I hate long term projected projects. Please tell me we don't have to stop the Industrial Revolution."

"No, nothing that big. We just have to destroy the Metropolitan Police."

Arthur turned to the Middleman "Wait a moment, you told me you already checked them out when the idea was first proposed and they weren't a secret army being recruited by someone out to conquer the Empire."

The Middleman turned to Ida "I thought I did. Ida, you even had me bring Sir Robert in for a hypnotic examination and hooked him up to that Lie Detector of yours. You said he was sincere in just wanting to fight crime."

"And that would be why I said it was a long term project. As long as Robert Peal is alive, the Metropolitan Police will be a force for good. But what happens after he eventually dies? Whoever follows him will inherent a ready made private army. You think all the Evil Masterminds won't be lined up six deep to get control of them?"

"That did occur to Parliament, you know. That's why they expressly forbid the Police from carrying firearms. Those chaps across the Pond aren't the only ones who figured out that an unarmed government and an armed population prevents tyranny."

"Right. Like none of the Evil Masterminds couldn't get around that! Hire a few trigger-happy gorillas to shoot up the streets and Parliament would be begging the Police to get guns. Then the politicians would be the first ones shot with the guns they voted to pay for. It's not like this hasn't happened before on a hundred other worlds."

Arthur interrupted "Aren't you the one always talking about all the civilized worlds with laws and police?"

Ida looked at him with pity "I was talking about civilized worlds, not this place." She held up her hand to cut Arthur off. "Let me explain. I'll use small words, so maybe even you can understand. On civilized worlds, the police are loyal to the Law. If someone ordered them to violate the law, they'd arrest the person that gave the order. The Metropolitan Police is the first time anyone on this planet has tried to organize a large scale police force. They don't have any tradition of being there to control crime. More than half of them are simply loyal to Robert Peal. Which means they'll blindly follow whoever comes after him. And the supply of Robert Peal's is limited. The Powers-That-Be aren't worried about Sir Robert. They're worried about leaving a dangerous tool laying around for whoever follows him."

"Well, isn't there some way to start that tradition?"

"And how are you going to do that, Artie Boy? How are you going to get the police more interested in solving crimes than following their leaders?"

A month later Arthur walked in the Control Room of the Middle HQ, carrying a loose leaf notebook "Boss, I have an idea about how to handle our Long Term project."

Ida looked up from where she was plugged into the HEYDAR "Don't strain your brain, Artie, I've got 37 different ways to shut down the police. I'm just waiting for the right time."

"If you will let me finish, Ida, I have an idea so we don't have to shut them down."

"Artie Boy, you'd better not be refusing orders from the Powers-That-Be. You don't want to know what I'd have to do to you if that's what you're saying." Ida unplugged herself from the HEYDAR and took a menacing step toward Arthur.

"Why, Ida, I seem to remember that you were the one who said that if the police started caring more about solving crimes, then we wouldn't need to destroy them."

Ida growled, but stopped advancing on Arthur.

"I'll take that as a yes. It occurs to me that if the Metropolitan Police had some competition, then that might give them something to live up to."

"Arthur," the Middleman said gently "there is no competition for the Metropolitan Police. Your plan has some potential. If the Paris police, for example, had a reputation for solving crimes that baffled London police, then we could nudge the Metropolitan Police into a little pride to not be outdone by the French. That would certainly help to put them on the right track. But there simply is no other police agency in the world that can compete with the them. That's what makes the Metropolitan Police so important. For good or ill, they are going to be the standard that police agencies all over the world will follow."

"Who said the competition had to be another police agency?" Arthur said with a grin. "What if a private detective made the police look like fools? Wouldn't that sting their pride even more?"

Ida looked genuinely alarmed "Boss, I don't like where he's going with this. Yeah, we can solve all kinds of crimes. Even without the HEYDAR, we can do DNA analysis and a hundred other things that won't be invented locally for centuries. But we'd either get burned at the stake as witches or somebody would notice that we have a bunch of tools that don't exist yet. Artie, you did catch that part about this all being a secret, didn't you?"

The Middleman waved a hand for Ida to calm down and proceeded to light his pipe, setting the pipe's controls to filter out the nicotine "I suspect Arthur has taken that into account. Carry on, Arthur."

"What if we published the adventures of a fictional detective? If the character is fictional, we won't have people following us around, or asking for evidence in court. But if the stories were set in modern 19th century London, then they could still be used to shame the Metropolitan Police into a healthy competition."

The Middleman perfectly still, lost in deep thought. About the time that those who didn't know him would have been positive he was asleep, he finally stirred and re-lit the pipe that had long since gone out.

"Merit, your idea has definite merit, Arthur. But how do you propose for your fictional character to outwit Scotland Yard? He'll have to use 19th Century technology, or else no real police will try to compete with him."

Arthur had an answer ready for this "I plan on having the character be an expert in that Deductive Reasoning course that Ida had us both take. 'Once you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth' and all that. That's not secret, is it, Ida?"

"Well no, it doesn't reveal any classified technology, but it would advance Earth Science about a hundred years if anyone on this planet had sense enough to listen to it. But since I doubt anyone will actually read anything you write, I guess it won't do any harm" Ida grumbled. She then turned suspicious "Just what kind of stories are you planning on writing, anyway?

"I would write best of what I know. Of course the stories would have to be heavily edited so the 'mysteries' didn't reveal anything about the Middleman's real activities. So we couldn't very well tell the story of that alien rodent that was eating all those villagers in Sumatra. Crashed spaceships and escaped interstellar vermin are a bit much for a 'realistic' fictional detective. But take the first case you had after recruiting me as an example. We can't very well say we were fighting a vampire cab driver. But, if we remove all references to the cabbie being a vampire, and and replace Ida's research on the HEYDAR with some old-fashioned foot work, then we'd have a rather nice murder mystery. I remember Ida saying how Scotland Yard should have had enough information to least find the vampire, even if they'd have all been slaughtered if they actually caught up with him. Well, here's our chance to show them how they could have caught him."

"Capital, Arthur, simply capital! I can see you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of thing. I assume you have some characters and a story outline in mind?" asked the Middleman, pointing the stem of his pipe at Arthur's notebook.

"Well, I first thought of using the three of us as the main characters, but I can't really say much about Ida, can I? Unless maybe I cast her in the role of a kindly housekeeper who brings the real detectives tea and answers the door when, err, clients come to call."

"Artie Boy, you do realize that I have a remote control for the Self-Destruct in your leg? It would make a terrible mess on the carpet, but I suppose we lowly housekeepers are supposed to clean carpets, aren't we?" Ida made a move as if reach for something, and Arthur beat a hasty retreat out of the room.

The Middleman looked Ida straight in the eye "Speaking of deductions, I concluded a long time ago that part of your job is to keep the power of all this Middle technology from going to our heads. You're the Powers-That-Be's antidote to the age old poison of absolute power corrupting absolutely."

"Guilty as charged, Boss."

"Arthur's no fool, you know. He knows, for example, that you're not really going to blow him up, and he's halfway to figuring you out for himself. You may have reached the point where this 'Artie Boy' business is getting counterproductive. I realize that you've forgotten more about medicine that the entire staff of Edinburgh University ever knew, but he still worked hard to get a degree in Medicine."

"Well, I'm not going to call him Dr. Doyle!"


"OK, OK. Whatever you say, Boss. Maybe I could call him 'AC'? Annoying, but not quite as demeaning."

"Well, that's an improvement."

Ida turned and walked out of the room. "Artie Boy" she bellowed "you'd better not be expecting me to transcribe those chicken scratchings you call handwriting! If you're going to play at being a writer, then you're going to have to lose that feather quill of yours and learn to use a Word Processor."